I am preempting any negative comments I may receive due to admitting to playing "Magic: The Gathering" (MTG) in this post. This is in no way meant to coerce anyone who does not like the game to play, or to say that you should let your children play the game based on my personal opinion. However, I do have an opinion, and since this is my blog, I will share said opinion with whomever chooses to read this.
Let me start with the official age recommendation for the game. On the box it says "Age 13+." Thirteen is about the age that children begin to fully grasp that there is fantasy, and then there is reality, and that there is a line between them. Granted, children are as varied as the fish in the sea, just because the box says they are "officially" old enough to play, does not mean that they necessarily are grounded enough. I also am aware, from playing these games (along with playing "World of Warcraft", an MMORPG on my PC) that a lot of "20-somethings" are not grounded enough in reality to take a healthy approach to fantasy games, but they are adults capable of making their own decisions about what they do for entertainment purposes, and what they choose to spend their earned income on.
I personally feel that this is an adult game and my child will not be allowed to play this particular game until he is an adult and can make his own decision in the matter. However, I will allow him to play other Trading Card Games (TCG) that his father and I have fully review, played, and comprehended to be appropriate for his age and maturity level. For example, there is a TCG that is sold at Berean Christian Bookstore called "Redemption" that is said to be appropriate for "Ages 7+." When Cohen is about to turn seven (if he is interested at all) Toby and I will pay a visit to a friend (who leads worship for a Friends Church in Southern California) and borrow his (and son's) cards to try out for ourselves. So when the time comes to address the inevitable, "You do it so why can't I?" I will have an appropriate alternative for him and an explanation that there are different games for different age/maturity groups. We will tell him that we have played a game that is okay for him, present him with his starter deck, and excitedly play with him like my friend did with his son. In their situation, the child quickly went from being the kid who wasn't allowed to play the popular "Yu-Gi-Oh" TCG to being the kid with the coolest collection of Redemption cards and an awesome Dad who spent time doing things his son was interested in.
Back to MY personal reasons for playing, I play purely for entertainment purposes. My husband enjoys the game and we have a few friends who enjoy it as well who are perfectly emotionally healthy and grounded in reality. They are professionals and grad students, who are very well rounded, well read, intelligent people that we enjoy spending time with. It is something interactive to do with our friends while we discuss theological, philosophical, psychological, and sociological themes (these are interests we as individuals bring to the table, I am not claiming that by playing MTG you will become versed in said topics).
MTG has some light, scripted, turn based Role Playing involved in it. I have recently come to a personal understanding of the very therapeutic benefits one can receive from Role Playing. Many psychologists use Gestalt therapy which according to Wikipedia
"is an existential/experiential form of psychotherapy that emphasizes personal responsibility, and that focuses upon the individual's experience in the present moment, the therapist-client relationship, the environmental and social contexts of a person's life, and the self-regulating adjustments people make as a result of their overall situation."
Again, I am in no way claiming that everyone who needs therapy for something should get into Role Playing Games (RPG) or TCGs. I have personally found that I benefit from metaphorically stepping out of myself and into a made up role for the length of a game (2 to 20 minute for a two person game, double for a four person game). I also enjoy making up a character to dress up as and Cos Play (Costume Role Play) for a day or so at a Convention, but that is another blog post for another day.
My base argument is that "Magic: The Gathering" is just a card game intended for fictional entertainment purposes only. It is not recommended for children under the age of thirteen and some children of the recommended age are not necessarily mature enough to play MTG. I advise parents who may be concerned about the content of any game to play it for themselves at least one time through in order to judge for themselves if said game is appropriate for their particular child despite age recommendations on the package. I have personally found MTG to be a fun way to encourage face to face social interaction between players who sometimes have tenancies to spend a lot of time playing more introverted single player console games at home. I have also found the light Role Playing aspects of the game to be entertaining and a therapeutic tool for me to take a break from the stress in my life for a short amount of time. To reiterate, I am not trying to convince you that "Magic: The Gathering" is something that everyone should do, I am merely defending my reasons for playing while attempting to educate those who have never actually played, but have heard "bad things" about the game. The content is not appealling to everyone and that is okay, but that does not make this fictional game evil. If you are an adult who is well grounded in reality, but enjoy fantasy fiction, I see no reason not to play this game.